One of the topics that has seen more views given than the sands of the Accra (Borla) beach is the position of music in religion. A large number of exegetes who talk about the wheedlings and seductions of Satan in the hearts of men say he does it through music. Those who hold the contrary view also say it is the form and content of music that determines its good or bad nature, and that music in itself cannot be bad. My view in this argument was captured well by the Awake Magazine of the Jehovah Witnesses in August, 2011.
The opening sentence starts:
“Can you imagine life without music? No soothing lullabies. No romantic serenades. No lively pop-songs. No stirring symphonies. And no inspirational melodies. Most will consider that a dull and unappealing prospect.” It continued: “Yes, music appeals to virtually the full range of human emotions. It soothes and excites us, uplifts and inspires us. It moves us to ecstasy and reduces us to tears. Moreover, because music speaks straight to our heart, it has power. Why are we so moved by music? The answer is really quite simple: music is a beautiful gift from God. (James 1:17)
So, I really love good music. The genre of music I like and really have an affinity for is Reggae. I used to loathe reggae music to the point that I regarded James Amoako as delusional. James was a classmate back in O’Reilly Senior High School. For our three years stay in school, he extolled the qualities of Reggae music ad nauseam. He always stated that all the genres of music are for the weak-hearted and that Reggae is for real men and the strong-hearted. Personally, I regarded his talk as musings of a confused person.
After Senior High School, I took a personal initiative to acquire as much knowledge as possible on my own. Those were the days I could ‘buy time’ in the Internet cafe and sit for hours researching and reading about the lives of great men. I read more – to the point when I began to read about porn-stars. My mind became like what Mutabaruka stated in his poem ‘Dis poem’. It became like a sponge, absorbing things as I encountered them. And my mind yearned for thought-provoking issues. I must confess that I argued violently in those days.
It so happened that a friend had a music player which he gave me one day. The music that played first began with the lyrics “until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war”. The lyrics gripped me like death. I had to replay that song to the umpteenth time. That was the day I started following Reggae music religiously.
I got inundated with more Reggae songs by my friend Hamza Hajj Ayub, with whom I spent most part of the year 2007. The man who really baptised me in Reggae music is Blakk Rasta, formally of Hitz FM. His teachings coupled with my further researches really revealed a whole lot of world-issues to me. I love Reggae music now – to the point that I once unplugged a DJ’s electrical socket at a wake-keeping in Frankies, Nima, just because he did not play even one Reggae track over that night. That act ended in a real fight between us.
Reggae music is different. It is an everlasting music as noted Peter Tosh. He described other genres of music as “music that rises today and dies tomorrow”.
When Reggae is mentioned, the name that readily comes to mind is Bob Marley.
Anytime I visit the Nima-Maamobi Community library, I make sure I find time to read something again about this man from the book ‘Bob Marley: His Musical Legacy’ by Jeremy Collingwood. The tiny man from Jamaica sold that genre of music to the world and beyond. His profound messages against oppression, slavery in whatever from, sufferation and the subjugation of a part of the world make him stand out as a musician with class.
On May 11 this year it will be 35 years since he found himself on the shores of the afterlife after succumbing to a cancer medically known as Acral Lentiginous Malignant Melanoma.
However, today we celebrate his birth and musically rich life – in commemoration of which I recommend five songs of his to you. Find them, listen to the lyrics, read about them and live up to the world.
Recorded and released in 1976, the song is a revolt against the phenomenon that precipitated two of the three greatest crimes the world has ever witnessed – slavery and colonialism, the other being continental genocide of, particularly, indigenous North Americans and Australian Aboriginees. These two crimes have their underpinnings in racism; wherein one race feels it has the natural right to subjugate other races because of its colour. The song has much of its lyrics taken from the speech the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie gave to the United Nations in 1963. The song ends with a message of hope to the African.
“And until that day, the African continent will not know peace. We Africans will fight; we find it necessary. And we know we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of good over evil, good over evil.”
One Love/People Get Ready
The year 1977 in the Rastafari movement’s calendar was a prophetic one. It is believed that Marcus Garvey prophesied that there will be chaos when the two sevens clash (July 7, 1977). Hence, the roots reggae band Culture released their debut album that year with the name ‘two sevens clash’. One significant album that was released in that year also was Bob Marley’s Exodus – which was voted ‘Album of the Century’ by Time Magazine.
In that album, we find this powerful track, One Love/People Get ready – a song that talks about the greatest force on earth, the harbinger of hope, the purveyor of joy and the greatest force on earth. Love indeed conquers all. The Anglican church of Jamaica has incorporated this song in its hymn book and it is sung by all adherents of the church. For thousand years, the best song that was ever sung was this song as it was voted Song of the Millennium by the British Broadcasting Corporation.
“Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner. There ain’t no hiding place from the Father of Creation. One Love, one heart. Let’s all get together and feel alright.”
Wake up and live
It’s a four minute, fifty-eight seconds track that is found on the side-two of the album that has showed strong opposition to warfare, Survival. The song exhorts the listener to rise up and live rather than merely existing as most do in the world now. The message sums it all up in the song.
“Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you riding through the ruts don’t you complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts. Put your vision to reality. Wake up and live.”
Largely acclaimed as the Reggae Anthem and considered by many as Bob Marley’s Magnum Opus, it was released in 1980 – a year before he died. One can feel the pain in the song as he had already been diagnosed with the malignant cancer that forever shut his eyes to the world. Rita Marley his wife stated: “He was already secretly in a lot of pain and dealt with his own mortality, a feature that is clearly apparent in the album, particularly this song”.
“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.”
On the 26th of September 2007, Robert Mugabe told the 62nd session of the United Nations Assembly in New York a ferocious truth. He said this: “Mr. President, I lost eleven precious years of my life in the jail of a white man whose freedom and well-being I have assured from the first day of Zimbabwe’s Independence. I lost a further fifteen years fighting white injustice in my country.
Ian Smith is responsible for the death of well over 50,000 of my people. I bear scars of his tyranny which Britain and America condoned. I meet his victims every day. Yet he walks free. He farms free. He talks freely, associates freely under a Black government. We taught him democracy. We gave him back his humanity”.
When Robert Mugabe won the war against the imperialist Rhodesian government, he invited Bob Marley to play a concert in honour of the victory. In a prophetic style and fashion, Bob Marley had prophesied on this track released in 1979 that Zimbabwe would win the war against imperialism and he was going to “mash it ina Zimbabwe”.
“Mash it up ina (Zimbabwe);
Natty trash it ina (Zimbabwe);
Africans a liberate Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe);
I’n’I a liberate Zimbabwe.”
And truly he did it by personally sponsoring his trip to and from Jamaica and Zimbabwe. And he played a free concert too. It is no wonder that this song is the unofficial National Anthem of Zimbabweans. Legend has it that Zimbabweans know this song more than their national anthem.
“Every man’s got the right to decide his own destiny. And in this judgment there’s no partiality.”
There is certainly no partiality in choosing your favorite Bob Marley song. Which Bob Marley song is your favorite?
The writer is a Youth-Activist and the Executive Secretary of Success Book Club.